A Journal of the Plague Months Chapter 6
Friday May 8th
It isn’t as easy leaving hospital as you think, and in fact in the end, it took nearly all day. Something called my Discharge Papers had to be drawn up. The pharmacy had to produce my prescriptions. Lots of telephone calls were made. So I couldn’t let John know when he was to fetch me and of course he can’t come into the hospital.
“It’s a big thing to leave,” announced Natalie, looking mysterious.
Rosa drew the curtains so I could change back into my own nightie and dressing gown, which had been put into a bag marked Patient Property. I put my phone and hairbrush into my bag. I had nothing else except a toothbrush which Izabella had given me and I took that too. Oh, and I get to keep my stick.
I ended up having breakfast and lunch, which gave me an opportunity to thank Tom and Jan the cleaner, who came round in the afternoon.
Both Fatima and Maria were in today, and helped me wash and brush my hair.
Everyone seemed so happy that I was going home. Some might say it is because I was bed blocking, that they want people out before the weekend. But I don’t think so.
There was a lot of sitting around. My prescription arrived in a plastic bag. Then a huge sheaf of papers, which Natalie put in another bag with all my booklets and leaflets. Then the Ward Clerk, Bethan, who I’d never met, arrived with a list of useful telephone numbers.
Then suddenly it was over.
“You can go as soon as your husband arrives,” announced Natalie, beaming. “Tell him he can park outside A & E, and to be there in half an hour.”
I wasn’t expecting that, and I phoned John, who was as taken aback as I was, and as awkward as I was.
Half an hour later, Natalie came up with a wheelchair.
“It’s a bit of a walk, so you’ll be better off in this.”
I was sitting in my chair. Fatima and Maria had already stripped the bed and emptied my cupboards. Tom had removed my bed table, and wiped it over. I sat in my chair with my bag and two plastic carriers, as though I had gone already. It was like the last day in the old house.
The three ladies still on the ward, waved and called goodbye and good luck. I was sorry I had not got to know them better, but there was so much coming and going. And you thought people might die. And you didn’t want to get involved in people’s lives and problems, because you could barely manage your own.
Natalie pushed open the two big double doors, seeming curiously excited. I had not been through these doors since I came in.
She wheeled me out onto the long corridor which runs the length of the ward, and down to the exit. And down to the exit, it was lined with staff. All of them beaming, and clapping. I saw Fatima and Maria, I saw Rosa, Susan and Yasmin. Tom and Qasim, just about to serve tea. Jan the cleaner with his broom. Matt and Beverley. Claire, Karen, Kay, and Bethan. Nurses and healthcare workers I had never met. The two girls from X Ray. Dr Mohammed at the top. All of them applauding.
“I arranged all this! We always do it when somebody gets better and goes home!” announced Natalie.
She wheeled me down to the Exit, as I turned from side to side, listening to the applause, and saying thank you, thank you, over and over. It was the first time I cried since I came in.
We went through the Exit doors, and the sound died. Ward Nine was behind me. I was leaving hospital. I was leaving home.
Natalie and I went down in silence to the main Entrance. I saw John standing there, looking awkward. He came forward, and took my hand, and bent down.
“Did you remember the card and chocolates?” were my first words.
He handed me a large bag.
“It’s just starting to rain … you can back the car right up to the doors to put her in,” said Nat.
John went out and I gave Natalie the bag.
“Nat, this is for all of you … I wish it were more …. I don’t know what to … It’s ...” I stopped. I wanted to hug her and say thank you and she looked at me, but we couldn’t. We couldn’t touch. In that moment, I loved her like a daughter. Or a mother.
“I have to go now,” she said, as John came back in and helped me to my feet.
She walked off to the lift, and got in. She didn’t look back. There were other patients.
John helped me into the car. As we drove off, I turned round and gazed back at the hospital. I thought what I could do for them. Campaign for better PPE, testing for all NHS staff, a pay rise for all staff, the writing off of student nurses’ debts.
I remember when I was a little girl, I used to ask Mom about the war. What she had done. What it was like working in munitions in a heavily blitzed city. Had she felt heroic, as though she was living part of history.
She always shrugged.
“Oh, I went from day to day. I just survived,” she said.
And that was my experience. I hadn’t learned anything, I hadn’t become a
better person, I wasn’t always as nice to the staff as I should have been, I hadn’t tried hard enough, I hadn’t pioneered any new medication, I hadn’t done anything noble or worthy. Or indeed anything at all. I just survived.
A love letter dedicated to all NHS staff Glan Clwyd Hospital